Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peace on Earth, Good will to men

We made a giant snowman out of plastic cups today. The head looks kind of deformed, because we wanted it to be smaller than the body, but the cups don't really fit properly then. So he's slightly misshapen, but still cute. His name is Oatmeal.

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Most of the year, when i'm driving, i listen almost exclusively to NPR. I like to know what's going on in the world. But during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, i listen to nothing but Christmas music. The world is exhausting, and honestly, i just want to feel some peace and joy.

As i was driving home this morning, "I Heard The Bells" was playing, and it got to the third verse, and i was like, "THIS. This is how i feel right now." The lyrics are:

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

I know that the next verse, about God being not dead or sleeping, and wrong failing and right prevailing, is all true, but it just doesn't feel like that right now. 

This year, even without NPR or any other news source, there's no escaping the constant barrage of terrorism and racism and Donald Trump and hate. It seems like the world is going crazy. I long for peace on earth, and it just feels like hate is winning right now. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mostly Advent, but also a little bit of Downton Abbey

A few years ago we went to a "live nativity" at a church in town, and afterwards our entire family was all, "Okay. So that was...kind of lame." And so i was a little bit nervous when i had this "Evening at Bethlehem" on the schedule this year. But it was at a different church, and i was feeling optimistic. 

The first 5 minutes were a little video with still pictures and a voice over reading the King James Version of the Christmas story, and Katrina, who was sitting next to me, started giving me a look that clearly said, "Um. This is kind of boring, Mom." But as soon as the video was finished, it all got better. This guy who clearly loved his role as a shepherd came out dragging an adorable sheep, and then we all got to walk through "Bethlehem," where a money lender gave us "shekles" and then later a tax collector (who took all of the shekles we had). There were people making pottery and people "selling" jewelry and flowers and bread and cloth. The "streets" were totally crowded with people, which my kids later said they really liked because it made it seem more realistic. The actors were all adorable and committed to their roles, and it was kind of awesome.

So that's definitely something that we'd all be happy to do again. Yay!

Yesterday's Advent activity was Christmas Mad Libs. This is our fourth year, i think, and since we do it in the same book every year, the kids think it's hilarious to read back over previous years' stories as well. We always do three pages, and we counted ahead to see how many years remained in the book - three, which i thought was pretty good, but the kids all cried, "Nooooo!" It's weird that this is a tradition that they all love.

Today we made cards for teachers and leaders. Houston just ignored the actual card and made snowflakes, which he then wrote notes on. Katrina made beautiful Christmas trees with lots of glitter. Zane wrote a note in pen and glued a small snowflake to the inside. So they all did pretty much what i could have predicted. Except Houston. I can never predict what he's going to do with crafts.

Tonight Juanito and i went with Beth, Stephanie, and another friend to see the final season premier of Downton Abbey. The movie theater gives away tickets to see it about a month before it comes out on TV, and it's always so much fun to watch with a huge crowd of people. Everyone sighs and giggles and claps and makes angry noises, and it's this feeling of solidarity. Beth and i even managed to get interviewed by a TV station before the movie, and ... i kind of hope that that doesn't actually make it onto TV ever. I'm such a dork.

Afterwards we went for frozen yogurt and sat on the floor in the hallway (because the place was completely packed) and talked and giggled and just generally had fun. Friends are awesome.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent, field trips, and a 5K

For Advent this year, i've been trying to actually do whatever the planned activity is for each day, which doesn't sound all that impressive, but is still not as impressive as it sounds. I was pretty careful to not put things on the calendar that we'd never do, like "Go caroling!" or "Bake and decorate cookies, and then bring them to people!" Those are things that i always want to do, until the day they're scheduled, and them i'm like, "Okay! We have half an hour before we need to leave for Zumba! about a cup of hot chocolate instead?" I aimed a lot lower this year, putting on things that we'd enjoy but would be completely doable. And so we're succeeding, which is good because we're doing whatever it is, and also because it always feels good to succeed.

So on Thursday we made snowflakes. (I love making snowflakes.)

Yesterday we went downtown, where the Gay Men's Choir was singing Christmas carols outside on the steps of the opera house. I kind of expected that they'd just be singing to us, but instead they basically led a carol-sing, so we all got to sing along. It was really fun. Also really cold after an hour. Zane wasn't with us, because he had a sleepover at his friend's house, and as much as i adore was probably the best thing he could have missed. I really don't think he'd have enjoyed it, what with the standing in one place for an hour in the cold, singing Christmas carols. The rest of us totally enjoyed it, though.

Today the kids put out their shoes for Sinterklaas. I figure that since my kids are more than half Dutch, they should get to enjoy at least one of the traditions.

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On Friday, Zane had a field trip to the Kid's Food Basket, an organization that provides sack dinners for kids who might otherwise not get any meal in the evening. This is my fourth time going with one of the kids' classes, and every time i go, i'm totally impressed by how incredibly quickly the kids work. What's awesome is that they always seem to spontaneously organize themselves into assembly lines. A group of 3-4 will figure out, "So...if i open the boxes and you snap the puddings apart and she puts them into the crate, that's faster than all of us doing all three things." And then they just fly along faster than we parents can keep up with the breaking down of boxes and restocking of crates.

Afterwards, we got back to the classroom, and the teacher tried to open the door and realized that someone had stuck a staple into the lock. (Who does that?!) And so another mom and i took the kids outside for half and hour while she found someone who could get the door open somehow. So the kids got a field trip plus a long extra recess. Best! Day! Ever! (And then Zane got to go on a sleepover, so he was pretty much the happiest boy ever.)

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Katrina had her 5K for Heart and Soul today. She loved it. It was cold, but not totally freezing, and honestly, it was so much better than i had kind of expected. When i first heard that their run was going to be in December, i imagined them having to run through deep snow and over snow drifts. Instead, it was hovering right around freezing, and there was no snow to be seen. Yay!

The best part about running in the cold is that when you finish, they give you hot chocolate. (And chili, which seems a little bit odd at 10:00 in the morning.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Long, long post to make up for missing two weeks

Yep. It's been weeks. Important weeks, at that. Days when i actually had stuff to say, rather than just, "So. It was a day." It's the Christmas season! We're doing fun things!

But it's the Christmas season! When the kids aren't surrounding me (and even sometimes when they are), i'm busy making presents until late into the night, and then all i want to do is fall into bed and sleep. So i'll try to do better! But....

So. To recap:
On November 19th, the final movie for the Hunger Games came out, and it was the Ladies Night movie, which meant that we had a huge group of people who all came with us to go have fun and watch Mockingjay. Beth, who is amazing, put together little gift bags for everyone, along with Keren, who totally made stuff for it too. Cookies and a bookmark and a necklace and a little painting, all wrapped up in a silver parachute. Fun!

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Thanksgiving was at my aunt and uncle's house this year, which was either very fortuitous or just very well-planned-out on my mom's part, because she was still very unable to host a ton of people at her house, what with still recovering from her knee surgery. There was delicious food, and i always like my family, extended and immediate, so it was a really good day. After dinner we had the traditional Thanksgiving craft, which is almost always some kind of  Christmas decoration. This year we made fancy snowflakes and cute paint-chip Christmas trees.

Thanksgiving evening, our family (Juanito, the kids, and i) played a game of Catchphrase. Sort of. Initially it was just the kids and me, and i set teams with Zane on my team, assuming that, as the youngest, he'd be the obvious weak link. And then i just ... didn't get out the board to keep score, and since it's been a while since we played that game, the kids didn't notice. So we just played with the timer, and when the timer ran out we'd pause, and then either just start going again or pass the turn and start with the next person, whatever the person holding the thingy felt like doing. It was completely not competitive, which meant that eventually Juanito wandered over and joined in.

The thing is...Zane was amazing. He was better than some adults i've played with. I mean, Houston and Katrina were good too, but Zane is just really good at it. It's a good thing we weren't keeping score, because it totally would have looked like i was stacking the deck in my favor, choosing him for my team.

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The day after Thanksgiving, we always go get a tree. Usually we go with my parents, but my mom isn't quite up to stomping through rough terrain to haul a tree out yet, so this year we were on our own.  We picked out a super-cute tree. The kids actually made the decision. They wanted this one because it was "all bright green and happy-looking!" And it is! It's also the pokiest tree in the history of trees. Everyone was hanging ornaments, going, "Ow. Ow. Ow." Poor Juanito, who's always in charge of putting the lights on, got his hands all poked up even through his work gloves.

While Juanito was struggling with the lights, the kids and i decorated the rest of the house. It's always so much fun to see the house all pretty and Christmasy, and i on-purpose don't even think about the fact that, in a month, it's not nearly as much fun to put away. Because, if nothing else, it's a fun way to clean and possibly put different nick-knacks out! Yay!

We have so many traditions in our family, and a lot of them were entirely accidental on my part, but they started when the kids were little, and the kids just want to do them every single year. And that's totally fine! Except that it's things like putting the star on the top of the tree or ringing in Christmas with a special bell ornament, and they want to take turns and be fair...except nobody ever remembers FOR SURE from year to year who did each thing last year. So last year, the kids were smart and wrote down the schedule for the next three years and put it into the box with the ornaments. They are brilliant.

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Katrina bought herself a knitting loom. I don't know what it's actually called, but it's a circle with little pegs, and you loop the yarn around the pegs, and it magically makes a knit hat. (Years and years ago, my grandpa got into knitting the same way and made everyone the best scarves in the world. I still have mine, and it's still used regularly by me or my kids, because it's insanely warm.) Katrina bought it on Saturday night, and then spent all day Sunday teaching herself to use it and then knitting and knitting, and by Sunday night, she had an adorable hat which she has not taken off since. That was four days ago.

Meanwhile, Houston decided that he wanted to learn how to crochet, so i sat down and taught him using a big hook and thick yarn, because that way things go faster. He worked at it for a while and got incredibly frustrated, so i switched him to regular yarn and a normal hook, and he immediately threw himself into it whole-heartedly and has been crocheting every spare moment since. He is nearly finished with his first scarf, and i'm pretty sure that three minutes after he finishes that one, he'll start on a new one.

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Emma has been in our family for about a year now - almost exactly - and she's just a really good dog. We still put her in her crate at night and if we're gone for longer than half an hour, but i leave her out when i drive the kids to school in the mornings. Usually i come home and she's curled up on the couch, completely happy.

Today i came home and she met me at the front door, which i initially thought was a nice change. Turns out, she had a party while i was gone. She somehow pulled my basket of yarn balls to the floor and then proceeded to play with them like a cat. Approximately 10 balls of yarn, all completely tangled together. Good yarn, too, that i didn't want to just throw away. So i spent the first two and a half hours of my morning untangling and re-winding balls of yarn. SIGH.

Guess who's going to be going in her crate when i bring the kids to school from now on....

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Possibly my favorite moment of today: Katrina, Houston, and i were in the car. Katrina was explaining what she wants for Christmas. 
Katrina: "I want glitter, because i really like to use it for projects." (She talked about the glitter for a while.)
Me: "Wait. Do you want glitter? Or glitter glue?"
Katrina: "Oh! Glitter glue. I really like pink glitter! It's so pretty!"
Me: "Pink glitter? Or pink glitter glue?"
Her: "Glitter glue. I mean glitter glue when i say glitter."
Me: "It's kind of an important distinction, though. They're totally different things, if you're asking for them for Christmas...."
Houston: "Yeah! Like, if i wanted a flower pot, but i just said, 'I want a pot,' then that's not the same thing at all!" 
Katrina: "And then on Christmas, people would be all like, 'Here's your pot!'"

I managed to not laugh until later, when i was recounting the conversation for Juanito.

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So it's Advent season, and we always have a several different Advent calendars going. This year we've got one that has jokes, one that has activities, and one that has the Christmas story, one verse at a time, for everyone to memorize. Also one that has candy.

Yesterday's activity was to start doing Secret Santa. We went to the dollar store and each got the same number of presents, and then came home and wrapped them with printed-up name tags so that the giver could be properly secret. It's day 2, and i'm pretty sure i already know who everyone has. Because i'm obnoxious.

Today's activity was looking up funny Christmas videos on Youtube. Easy, fast, and able get finished between Katrina's Heart and Soul practice and Juanito and Houston's needing to leave for Zumba.